The Clinton City Board of Education and superintendent Stuart Blount wielded a heavy hand last week in its move to strip long-time school system finance man Clyde Locklear of his assistant superintendent title.
While Blount called it a “title change,” the truth is, it was a lot more than that – it was also a reduction in pay (from $78,612, which he currently makes, to $74,064, which will be his salary beginning July 1 when he becomes finance director), something that will impact Locklear as he moves ever closer to retirement.
One has to wonder what a 26-year veteran of the school system could have done to warrant this kind of treatment? In our estimation Locklear did nothing to deserve such a demotion, and given the way administrators have hidden behind the old “personnel issue” excuse as a means of staying mum on the issue, we doubt they had solid reasons for taking such extreme measures.
Locklear has served under three previous superintendents — and at the pleasure of countless Boards of Education. He has had his title elevated and has received salary bumps warranted by those advancements along the way. If he wasn't highly competent in the job, he likely would have never risen in the ranks as he has done, particularly given the number of school chiefs he has worked for through the years.
Perhaps Locklear had a recent misstep, perhaps the system's financial house wasn't in exactly its best order, or perhaps he missed something he shouldn't have along the way. We aren't sure what prompted Thursday's job re-classification, and we likely won't ever know, but one thing is clear: Locklear obviously didn't do anything that would have justified dismissal, and from where we are seated, one has to wonder why other steps weren't taken first before merely stripping him of a title he has worked hard to achieve.
We cannot imagine why the Board of Education, particularly the veteran members, felt they should side with Blount on this issue. Viser, board chairwoman Georgina Zeng and members Carol Worely, E.R. Mason and Randy Barefoot were all members of the board when Locklear's contact was extended back in February 2011 under then superintendent Dr. Michael Basham.
Obviously there weren't any missteps then.
Are we really to believe things got so bad three years later that such a loyal employee would be stripped of the things he most counted on professionally. Mason wasn't at Thursday's meeting, but the others were, and they voted to follow Blount's recommendation.
At the very least their actions leave far more questions than answers.
Over 26 years, Locklear has been a loyal employee, helping the city find innovative ways to fund everything from smartboards in classrooms to assorted construction projects. He's been diligent in his efforts, always unassuming and always at the ready to lend a helping hand.
He's never made waves or sought the limelight. He's just done his job in a quiet and steady manner.
He didn't deserve what happened Thursday night; we're sorry board members felt otherwise.